Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Where Would You Rather Be?

Just about wherever one lives in the United States, one runs the risk of being the victim of a natural disaster. Though it's hard to imagine the total devastation of such a large area like we're seeing in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.

In the Midwest we have our occasional floods, tornadoes, and the New Madrid fault could produce the big earthquake at any time.

The West has it's wildfires, earthquakes and other seismic events.

The East and Gulf coasts have hurricanes and several other possibilities.

The North has tornadoes, floods and blizzards.

The Southwest has it's droughts, fires and severe heat.

I'm not sure where it's safest to live in our country, but I guess I'll take my chances here in the Midwest. We don't seem to have the extremes of the other places.
Although, we've been close to a couple of tornadoes over the years and it doesn't get much more frightening than that.

Even with all of these disastrous possiblities, would you rather live in any other country? Yes, that's a rhetorical question. I think I know your answer. When's the last time you heard of people flocking to get into any other country in the world?

They're breaking down the doors to get into Denmark? Nope.
They're closing the borders to South Africa? Not a chance.
They are not allowing new immigrants in Russia? Right.
They're fighting to get into Brazil? Give me a break.

With all of our problems...not just the weather...our good ol' America is still where people find the greatest possibility of living out their dream.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Katrina Questions

What a terrible storm. But we have to be thankful that it took that little turn to the East before coming ashore. Otherwise, they say we could be looking at death and devastation on the order of the Asian tsunami. I heard one New Orleans official say if the city would have taken a direct hit they wouldn't have had enough body bags.

Here are the questions I have in the aftermath.

--Will those that are being rescued from their roofs in New Orleans be charged with a crime? There was a mandatory evacuation order that they obviously chose to ignore. Now, tax money has to be spent, and the lives of rescuers are at risk, because these people chose to "ride it out".

--Will insurance companies be allowed to just quit selling insurance in hurricane affected areas? Some have already pulled out of Florida.

--If companies can sell only where they want to, will they be forced to lower their rates in the areas they do sell? I bet not.

--I actually read this morning that people are complaining about the conditions in the Super Dome. When does someone wake up and realize that they are lucky to be alive..or that someone else is taking care of them, not vice versa?

--Will the Saints have a place to play football? Their first home game in the Super Dome is scheduled for Sunday, September 18th. They've got a little over two weeks to get the place in shape...and make sure people can get to it without a boat.

--Will gas prices go up because of market pressure...or will the oil companies just have a good excuse for gouging?

--Where did Forrest Gump's shrimp boat wind up?

Monday, August 29, 2005


--I happened to notice a window sticker on the way in to work today that got me thinking. It's a variation on the old "My kid is an honor student at XYZ school" and read something like this...

XYZ School
Proud to be the parent of a

Now, I don't have a problem with parents who are really proud of kids and school accomplishments. Parents being into their kids is not nearly popular enough these days. Lack of parental involvement has always been a leading factor in youthful crime. Big Brothers-Big Sisters would enjoy the day when they have to go "out of business". I just think these stickers are, at best, disingenuous, and, at worst, a safety hazard.

Don't you agree that these stickers are more about the parents than the kids? I believe they are a superficial way for a parent to call attention to himself/herself, not the kid and genuine academic achievement. Do these people think that the child actually cares about a bumper sticker on the family SUV that doesn't even identify him/her? Get real! If the parent actually wants to do something that the child appreciates they should take a family trip to Six Flags, or some other kind of "together-time" activity. And while there, the parent could tell the treasured offspring just how proud they are and top it off with a hug. The bumper sticker could stay out of my face.

I realize that schools use these stickers as a motivational/promotional tool. And, as long as the school sends one home with the student, parents will encounter the overwhelming urge to gloat and likely put the thing on the family vehicle. But, come on folks, I don't know you or your car. How could I possibly give you, or your school, the credit you're seeking? Do you think I'm going to do a search on your license plate to find out who you are, and then send you a letter of congratulations?

The only thing these stickers accomplish is to partially obscure the rear view of the driver. Maybe there should be a law.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Missing the Good Old Days

I noticed in today's edition of the Belleville News-Democrat an insert devoted to the high school football season. Most of the area high schools start their season tonight. It got me to thinking about how much fun and excitement there used to be for me on the first day of the high school gridiron campaign a few decades ago.

Back in the 70's and early 80's I worked for WIBV radio. Those of you old enough to remember will recall that the station was essentially the KMOX of the Metro-East. We had local news, talk shows, farm reports, obituaries, the community calendar, all of the community-oriented programming that made up a full-service radio station in those days. And, of course, we broadcast TONS of high school sports. That's the reason I wanted to work there coming out of college. Because there was such a variety of types of broadcasting to learn from, and be involved in. The station was what, I believe, radio stations licensed to serve certain communities should be....a real service to the community.

Right now, that same station at 1260AM, with new call letters of WSDZ, is known as Radio Disney. It's license is owned by the Disney company and it broadcasts a bunch of pre-teen oriented music and fooling around. This "niche programming" is delivered by satellite to the transmitter and doesn't really do much for anyone except pre-pubescent kids. It's still licensed by the FCC to serve Belleville and the surrounding area, but gets away with programming the stuff it does because of the very lax, "market driven" laws governing the broadcasters of the nation these days.

The station operates out of offices at West Port Plaza in Maryland Heights. It has no real connection to Belleville other than the fact that the transmitter and towers are still located just off 159 between Belleville and Smithton. The Disney people have spent a lot of money and tried mightily to re-configure the station's signal to serve more of the St. Louis region, but really haven't had much success.

All that said, I wish there was an economic solution to re-capturing the station and bringing it back to the type of service which the community had back in the 20th Century. We broadcasters had a great time serving the metro-east with the meaty, and some would say "small town", programming of those days. And I'm sure many in the area would appreciate having a station that pays attention to local issues, events and lives to call their own again. The economics of the current situation just don't seem to support that possibility though.

The first day of football season...when we usually broadcast one featured game and had reporters calling in updates from several other games around the area...was one of the highlight days of our broadcast year. The business community, until the early 80's, ate it up and supported our efforts with lots of sponsorship money. We brought a level of attention, and community pride, to the area gridiron programs that I'm sorry to say is likely gone forever.

You have to go far away from the big cities to find stations that absorb themselves in high school sportscasting these days. Sad...but that's the nature of the broadcasting beast in 2005. I certainly have some great memories of those days. And the first day of high school football season always takes me back there with a smile.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Unexpected Success

--As part of my business efforts, I've been producing, selling, and hosting a weekly radio show on Gateway Grizzlies baseball this season. It's heard Sunday mornings at 10 on 1380-ESPN. I call it "Grizzlies This Week" and it's been fun to do. But I must admit, there have been times when I would have preferred to not get up early on a Sunday morning to go to "work".

The show is what is known in the business as a brokered hour. That means, I buy the time from the station and sell the advertising, hopefully for a profit. I haven't made much money at it so far, but the idea came up right before the season, and that limited my sales effort considerably. But, I thought this summer I could at least establish the idea and then next year go for a "full-blown" sales effort starting after the holidays.

I was excited about the concept back in late May and early June. The Grizzlies have been a tremendous attraction for families during the summer months for the past few years. They have consistently led the Frontier League in attendance and everybody talks about how much fun they have at the games. The business community supports the team strongly with advertising and through participation in promotions. The radio show seemed like a slam dunk.

Then the Grizzlies started playing baseball games. Yikes! The team was worse than I could have imagined early in the campaign. The pitching was pathetic, the hitting struggled, and Grizzlies skipper Danny Cox manged to get himself suspended for most of June for bumping an umpire. There were rumors of friction between players. There were obvious examples of players not seeming to care about their effort while on the field. It was really ugly. It got to the point in mid-July that I seriously considered cancelling the show for the rest of the season. I thought, "who would want to be associated with what's going on here?". The best thing I could do for my advertisers would be to release them from their contracts. But, upon further consideration, I decided to stick it out, largely because of the great support from the Grizzlies management and ownership for what I was doing. And something in the back of my mind told me I would be sorry for dropping the show.

What has always made sports so fascinating and exciting to me is it's unpredictability. Lo and behold, a few weeks ago the Grizzlies started playing better baseball....much better baseball. They made a trade to pick up huge (6-6, 250) slugger Thomari Story-Harden in a trade with Mid-Missouri. Since then just about everybody in the lineup has been tearing the cover off the ball. The pitching staff, after many player moves and much hard work, has come together. Cox has been getting a solid outing from his starters almost every night. Closer Scott Patterson has been nearly untouchable since coming back to the team in late July. (He was a starter last season, and played for a team in Pennsylvania early this season). Defense-solid. Fan support-still leads the league.

As of this writing, the Grizzlies are over the .500 mark for the first time this season. They have won six games in a row and are right on the heals of the first and second place teams in the Western division (Rockford and Kalamazoo) of the Frontier League. The first two teams in the standings at season's end make the championship playoffs. It's been a remarkable turnaround. I would definitely not bet against them making the playoffs and, who knows, maybe winning the league championship again, as they did in 2003.

I am so happy that I didn't cancel the show. I have learned an important business lesson when it comes to sports. Never give up!

Go Grizzlies! And thanks for being a big part of my happiness!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Radio Waves

Another writer...this time the excellent Pat Gauen who writes for Illinois editions of the Post-Dispatch...has found it necessary to explore the Cardinals/KMOX/KTRS deal and the significance of the variances in the radio signals. His piece deals primarily with the realities of the KTRS nighttime signal for residents in Illinois. I thought this territory was pretty well explored a few weeks ago, but let's see if I can ease some troubled minds.

There's a website that offers a color coverage map of every radio station in the country. shows you that the night time signal of KTRS is restricted to the east. Everybody knows that. It also shows you that the signal of WSMI-FM, the station lined up to simulcast the games to fill in the weak area in the metro-east, will more than adequately pick up the slack. Maybe you didn't know that. Check it out.

It is abdundantly clear that the games will not, because KTRS is not a 50-thousand watt, clear- channel station, be heard in Alaska, Nova Scotia, and Mexico any more. But the Cardinals network of stations should adequately serve the markets that are more than casually interested in the broadcasts. Anyone who listened in far away places could not count on the broadcast being available anyway. Therefore, hearing those games in places thousands of miles away is a listening luxury that the Cardinals can live, and more importantly do business, without. Even KMOX won't gurantee that you will hear the game in Knockemstiff, Ohio on a given night because they have no control over weather conditions that might play havoc with skip waves bouncing off the ionosphere. We used to get calls at KMOX all the time from people in "the outback" asking why they couldn't hear the game that night. Our pat answers were, "Because the weather isn't cooperating" or "Just one of those nights".

The folks who can't hear KTRS in Illinois at night will be adequately served by audio of the games in some form.
  • WSMI-FM (previously not on the network)
  • Another network station (Sparta, Mount Vernon, Murphysboro, Herrin, Jacksonville, Springfield and Taylorville in Southern Illinois all have Cardinals affiliate stations)
  • XM-Satellite
  • Internet audio

As I've said in past posts, the serious Cardinals fan is finding a television set to watch the game. And, we've all noticed that there are TVs with the Cardinals game on them everywhere. The inconvenienced serious Cardinals fan is listening on the radio, and he/she will still be able to find a radio signal with the game on it. The not-so-serious Cardinals fan probably won't notice that anything has changed (much to the chagrin of KTRS bosses when the ratings come out).

I believe the major problem most people have with this thing has more to do with comfort than any potential reception issue. We folks here in St. Louis, and the Midwest, "don't cotton much to change". Not that that's a bad thing. Nobody likes to see a marriage break up. And our Cardinals were definintely married to KMOX for 51 years. But divorce happens all the time. Usually the people find a new way to make their lives work. But we conservative midwesterners get used to things being a certain way and any disruption in the daily routine throws us all into a hand-wringing, prozac-taking tizzy. Am I right?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Brain Waves

--I'm excited to say that I've agreed to return for another season as the public address announcer of the St. Louis Blues. My string of consecutive games without an absence...which began in January of 1987...will continue. Many thanks to Mark Sauer, Lou Siville and Chris Frome of the Blues organization who worked with me to structure a new deal. The Calhoun family is indeed grateful.

--Now with Mark Grudzielanek out with an infection in his knee, can it be long before the Cardinals sign someone from the Grizzlies to play a few games in the pinch? Heck, they could sign Grizzlies second-sacker Gary Gilbert to a one-week deal and wouldn't have to bother calling someone up from Memphis. Gary could play at that level...I'm darn sure of it. Especially when the team has a 13-game cushion in the standings.

--I've always been a Channel 5 guy. That goes way back to the days when I first moved away from home...(1975??) But, lately I've been watching a lot more of 2 and 4. I'm finding I can't quite warm up to the robotic Rene Knott and the "deer-in-the-headlights" Katie Felts on sports. And Frank Cusumano...who I think does a good job... isn't on enough. Plus...I just can't seem to buy into Mike Bush as a news anchor either. I keep waiting for him to come out with a "fuggedaboutit" when he's doing a voiceover on a news story. So, I think 5 is losing me. I find that I'm watching 5 out of habit...but switching to 4 during the show at 10 o'clock.

--I see where some of the things I said about the Cubs in a post last week caused a fan of the North-side bunch to respond with a comment challenging some of my thoughts. Let me say this, I admire, even if I don't understand, the loyalty that Cubs fans have to their team. In fact, I'll go one step further. When the Cubs were in the playoffs in '03, I actually found myself pulling for them to make it to the World Series. As a Cardinals die-hard, I know that seems like a sacrilege. But I have to admit it's true. When the Bartman incident happened, and Florida went on to win, I also felt a little bit of glee because it seemed that all was right with the world. The Cubs were once again foiled by the gods of sport. But, my post was not meant to be hurtful toward Cubs fans, it was intended to be more of an analytical piece about hapless...and luckless...sports organizations. But I guess I did give in to being a bit boastful in the light of such a huge lead in the division.

Friday, August 19, 2005

It's NOT my fault!

--I see where the relatives of Aaron O'Neal, the Mizzou football player who passed away after practice earlier this summer, are planning to sue the university. (I don't know, but can the school be blamed for the kid having a heart defect, or whatever it was?)

--A group of parents is suing Belleville High School District 201 over it's new dress code policy. (Hmmmm...isn't that what school board elections are for?)

--A Missouri appeals court judge is suing the Missouri Bar Association and an Osage Beach bowling alley for injuries sustained when she fell at a Bar Association sponsored bowling tournament. (Judge sues Lawyers! That's a good one.)

After Barb and I saw a story the other night on the local TV news, the first thing she said was..."I'll bet somebody gets sued over that one". And, unfortunately, in our litigious society, somebody probably will get sued "over that one".

There is nothing anymore that isn't someone else's fault. Or better put, there is nothing anymore that can't be blamed on someone else (particularly if they have money or are a big company). There are plenty of willing lawyers looking for a payday. Lifting the restrictions on lawyers advertising their services on TV and radio was not a good idea.

There is nothing anymore that is just an accident, or an unfortunate turn of events, or bad luck. The sad part of all of the "let's take it out of somebody else's hide" mentality is that it has a snowball effect. As more of these lawsuits are filed, and gain notoriety, the more ordinary people think that they can win the "legal lottery" by blaming their misfortune, or stupidity, on someone else.

It used to be that if you fell off a ladder and broke your arm, you called an ambulance and went to the hospital to get your arm put in a cast. Now, we call our attorney and find out if we should take pictures of the ladder. After all, we aren't so careless or uncoordinated to fall off a ladder by accident. It had to be the fault of the company that made the ladder. Or maybe it was the fault of the place where we bought the ladder. Or the guy who invented the ladder. Or the guy who invented climbing. Or our mother and father for not giving us proper instructions on ladder climbing. Or maybe all of them. Let's sue them all!! Yeah...that's the ticket!! And, oh by the way, I now have a second elbow on that arm because I didn't go to the hospital to get my arm set. You know, I had to cover myself legally...and so, I'm going to have to get damages for my permanent disfigurement too! Does that sound ridiculous? I'll bet there's a lawyer somewhere who'd take it to court.

Come on...where do we get off this "sue happy" runaway train? Judges need to start telling these lawyers to go find a real job and the plaintiffs to be ashamed of themselves. But it seems, more often than not, judges are intent on dignifying these cockamamy claims.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Gas Prices

I don't claim to be the brightest bulb in the fixture...but I don't think I'm on the bottom of the food chain either. But I just don't get why we're paying upwards of 3 dollars-a-gallon for fuel in our cars.

I've heard all the supposed factors.... storms have hurt production, this is a high demand time of year, the oil producing countries have tightened their exports and lowered inventory, demand is out-pacing refinery capacity...all of that. Somehow I think there's more to it than that.

First of all, why the hell don't we have more refinery capacity if that's a problem. We've been hearing that same refinery capacity baloney for...say 50 years. Build another damn refinery if that's what it takes.

For America to allow foreign oil barons to control our economy in this way is simply unacceptable. If we can spend ba-zillions of dollars on wars, elections, roads, and a bunch of other stuff, we should be able to find a few billion to take those guys out of the picture. It's not like there aren't oil reserves in our part of the world to draw from.

Better yet, why haven't we come up with ways to eliminate the depency on oil in the first place? There are many other ways to make an internal combustion engine work. Why haven't they taken hold? Who's conspiring to hold back progress?

How is it that free enterprize and competition have seemingly gotten lost in all this. Why does the BP station have the same price on gas as the QT down the street...or the Shell a half block away? Didn't there used to be such things as gas wars...where the stations would compete for business with lower gas prices? I think so. Save me 5 bucks on a tank of gas, and I'll come in your store to buy my lottery tickets... or a loaf of bread...or a 12-pack of beer. Somebody at corporate is telling the local managers what the price will be...and that's it.

I'm guessing it's going to have to really get ugly before we change any habits. People will keep buying SUVs as long as there are "employee pricing" campaigns by the car companies. The big engine, gas guzzling trucks, Hummers, and kick-your-ass cars will keep rolling out of the showrooms as long as people are willing to pay 75 bucks to fill them up.

I don't know about you...but the hybrid cars are starting to look pretty attractive to me.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Cubs vs. Cards

Cubs fans can now go back to their big-city lives and whine some more about what might have been in 2005. Dusty Baker's assemblage managed to win 3 out of 4 against the team of mostly minor-leaguers masquerading as the Cardinals.

Fans of the baby bears are looking at the standings in the paper today and trying to find a scapegoat for this year's episode of "Cubs Flop Again". Oops, did I say goat? Conversation on the "El" will likely focus on how the North-siders are essentially a better team than the one that's 17 games ahead of them in the standings, but Dusty Baker can't manage, or Andy McPhail can't general manage, or Ron Santo isn't exciting enough on the radio, or whatever lame brainwave they can conjure to make themselves feel better and hold someone accountable for the bottom line. And, we all know, every year the Cubs bottom line is that they just aren't a very good baseball organization.

In every sport there are teams like this. Ones that flirt with success from time to time, but can't make the right set of moves to achieve a championship. They have internal, and some would say external, forces working to ensure that the key hit, defensive play, coaching move, or pitch will not be made at the key time to get the key victory. In other words, they have the keys, but not the driver, to make the vehicle work properly. It's not for lack of trying, or money, or fan support. They just lack the right people in the right places. And that boils down to mismanagement.

Look at the Cardinals in football...the (dare I say it) Blues in hockey...the Clippers in basketball. They all are decent, if not very good, most of the time. But their poor management, instability of ownership, or personnel traditions perpetuate a legacy of mediocrity and/or failure. The Cubs, of course, have the ultimate business model.

So, try as they might, Cubs fans can not wish, pray, or root their team to a World Series. Cubbie supporters should take as much joy out of this weekend as they can. We Cardinals fans will be thinking of them when we're gathered around the TV at our World Series parties this year. Nah...probably not. We'll be thinking of how lucky we are to have a team managed by people who care, are smart, and able to turn their passion into positive action.

Friday, August 12, 2005

People Questions

--Hypothetical question. Would you, for even one second, get out of your car and leave your 6-week old baby alone in the back seat? Of course, I'm referring to yesterday's incident in East St. Louis in which a mother's car was stolen with her recently-born baby inside. A SARAA alert was issued. We all thought the worst. The news media scrambled to report the story. Thankfully, the car...with the baby still in his car seat and OK...was found later a few blocks away.

On the evening news we saw videotape... taken before the happy ending... of the mother. She was understandably distraught, blubbering, being consoled by relatives, and wondering who could do this to her and her baby.

Hellll-ooooooo!!!! She may not think so, but she is as much to blame for the incident as anybody. It appeared she thought she was victimized by outside forces, and to the extent that someone stole her car, she was. But, she also should understand that her behavior would be foreign to most parents anywhere on the planet. Most moms and dads would not let their baby out of their sight and, therefore, not allow a similar incident to happen. She left her baby alone in the car, apparently with the engine running--at least I hope so because the temperature was in the 90's and the child would need the air conditioning. If that's not an invitation to steal the car, especially in crime-ridden East St. Louis, what is?

I'm sorry, but I just don't understand the mind-set, or mindless-set, that would cause a parent to essentially abandon their baby in such a way. To most people, your own child is THE most precious thing in the universe. And, leaving a helpless child somewhere, anywhere, where someone else's priorities could possibly harm them, is beyond conventional comprehension.

I also saw that the East St. Louis police are not considering charges against the mother. If putting a baby in a position to be car-jacked is not child endangerment, what is? I have to question their judgment in this one too.

Again, someone needs to explain to me how a truly loving parent could begin to let something like that happen.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Random Thoughts

--Part of the back wall in right field--which serves mostly as a billboard--taken down in Wednesday's storms at GMC Stadium. The picture in the News-Democrat today reminds me of what it might look like if one of the Grizzlies left handed hitters "really got into one".

--I'm sure Terrell Owens thinks he's always on the right side of all of his controversies. But you would think he has to wonder why he's always in the middle of one. Keeping his mouth shut would be a start.

--Another double-fatality auto crash involving high school kids from Freeburg High School. This time 15-year-old boys out late, and apparently drinking, then driving. Not old enough to drive. But somehow running wild without parental supervision. Sad. Whatever happened to the parental curfew?

--Barb and I saw West Side Story at the Muny last week. It struck me that the gang violence story line is as relevant today as it was in the early 60's. Apparently nobody learns anything from young people killing one another. The hormones are still more powerful than good sense.

--Is Bo Bice still happy that he came in second? I've seen a lot of Carrie. Where's Bo?

--The Cardinals are spoiling us. I hope they have as good a team next year to play in the new ballpark.

--I'm constantly asked about the NHL coming back and how it might be received by fans. I'm expecting a "honeymoon" period as the curious re-examine things. But, if the fans see the same old plodding, uninteresting brand of hockey, there will be a lot of empty seats at NHL arenas for the rest of the season. Especially since not many teams are lowering ticket prices.

--Who's on first? Albert Pujols, who now has the best shot at the triple-crown in the majors in a long time. 9 points out of the lead in batting average...4 HR's behind Andruw Jones...2 RBI's behind Carlos Lee of Milwaukee. It could happen.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Worried About Prince Albert

From what I'm hearing, there is reason to be legitimately concerned about Albert Pujols. Not about the way he plays the game--the passion and ability he takes on the field most every night is way beyond most big name, big contract players. And his heartfelt contributions to the community and good work with underpriveleged and mentally challenged kids is exemplary. What he needs to be careful about is his public image, and eventual baseball legacy.

I know you've seen it too. Lately, there have been many clips on television and radio sportscasts, and quotes in the paper, in which our man Albert has been down right rude, and borderline hostile, toward reporters. He snears and mocks them with snide and hurtful answers to questions that make you wonder what's going on in his head. Is he getting the "I'm better than you because I'm a highly-paid and much-loved athlete" syndrome? I certainly hope not.

But, it seems to be obvious that he has some kind of problem dealing with the media. There is no doubt that some media members ask absolutely inane and ridiculous questions. But, some guys who regularly cover the team tell me that Albert is quickly becoming a "don't go near him in the locker room" kind of guy. He is high on the "s--t list" of several members of the media.

How difficult can it be for an athlete to be patient with reporters for 10 minutes per day? After all, even the tactless Whitey Herzog understood that reporters, at least the members of the Baseball Writers of America, are the people who determine whether you are elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He mustered enough patience after every game to be civil enough, and entertaining enough, to become their darling.

I would hope that before it gets out of hand, and A.P. does permanent damage to his image, Brian Bartow (Cardinals Media Director), or someone in a position of authority with the team, would pull him aside and point out the grace and humility with which Stan-the-Man handled himself in ALL situations during, and after, his career.

#5 has the chance to surpass the great #6 in the statistics department, but at this pace will never come close to "The Man" in the beloved category. It is doubly important for Albert to learn some people skills because "Cardinal Nation" demands not only great players...but equally great people... to wear the "birds on the bat".

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

More on Cards/KTRS/KMOX

Thanks to Mike Anderson publishing a mention of my blog on his website, I've gotten more feedback than usual on my thoughts. Obviously, not everybody sees the Cardinals move to KTRS in the same light that I do. For instance:

Having worked at both stations (as you have) and now working public relations, it is my humble belief the Cardinals have, for the price of a bench-riding utility infielder, made a big PR blunder. Lost in the legitimate talk about signal strength is the fact the Cardinals have tossed away a half-century of tradition, and baseball is about tradition, above all else. God knows KMOX has its warts, but the Cardinals have decided to associate themselves with a minor league, poorly managed mess of a radio station that has been characterized throughout its existence by nonsensical, scattershot programming decisions and overall management incompetence. In short, a legacy of failure. Congratulations Cardinals!! Let's hear it for your new radio partner.

This person makes some cogent points. But, are the Cardinals really throwing away their entire tradition, and the feelings that their fans have for the team, by switching radio stations? They're not abandoning radio altogether. KTRS has certainly struggled with it's own self-image...and therefore it's programming... but I'm sure the Cardinals know that. The appointment of Bobby Lawrence as "uber-manager" is, no doubt, intended to deal with those issues.

Sure, KMOX was somewhat responsible for the fans that the team acquired over the years from outside the St. Louis area, but aren't there other methods (TV, satellite, internet, and the 100-plus station radio network) for maintaining that relationship from here on? I think Infinity overestimated KMOX's necessity in the Cardinals' marketing strategy and paid for it in the end. Younger fans, the ones the Cardinals really need to cultivate, are the people who will find baseball interesting and attractive through the use of the newer, and possibly hipper, mass media.

Another response:

Running with the local guys? Tom, the first thing that apparently has happened in the wake of the KTRS-Cards nuptials was the importing of Bobby Lawrence to oversee Tim Dorsey and all of KTRS. So, Cincinnatian Bill DeWitt of the Cardinals hooks up with (one-time) Cincinnatian Bobby Lawrence to move the team to KTRS. I fully agree with the gist of your post, Tom; it would indeed be terrific if local ownership were to return to the fore in radio. But in the Cards-KTRS case, I'm just not certain that that has happened. A bit too much Queen City involvement for me to buy off on that notion.

I understand your concerns about Bobby Lawrence. I could be wrong, but I see Lawrence as a supervisor of the Cardinals' interests in this relationship, more than an actual day-to-day manager at the station.

The main point I was trying to make was that the local team(Cardinals), and local broadcasters(Dorsey Group owners and managers), and not a "mega" broadcasting corporation, will be calling the shots on how the station handles programming and promotion of the team. That control, and the mix of Cardinals vs. regular programming, was always ultimately out-of-town at KMOX because they bought the rights to the broadcasts and chose how much of a role baseball played in their daily schedule. Certainly, as owners, the Cardinals will ensure that a much larger part of the daily/weekly schedule at KTRS is devoted to the team than what they had at KMOX.

Nobody will know for sure if what the Cardinals did was right until about this time next year. By then, if anyone really misses the "good ol' KMOX days", we'll be hearing plenty from them. My guess is that not many will be saying anything because so many serious fans watch TV anyway. The network radio coverage will be sufficient, if not improved. The "wow" factor of hearing baseball on KMOX in Sioux Falls and Cobbler's Knob will be gone. But that's about it. Ask the Blues if their marketing effort wasn't more effective after moving to KTRS a few years back. They've practically had a never-ending infomercial on that station for the last four years.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Cards to KTRS

You may have seen yours truly on Channel 5 the other night giving an opinion or two about the move by the Cardinals from KMOX to KTRS. I thank Kelly Jackson and Channel 5 for asking for my opinion, which is no more important than anyone else's. I have heard a lot of other "takes" on this whole thing from people on both sides of the fence since then. My bottom line remains the same...and this comes from someone who has worked at both stations--

KTRS-Local ownership and management with a passion for St. Louis and it's sports teams.
KMOX-Corporate ownership, distantly managed by non-St. Louisans

KTRS-Stand alone station based in St. Louis
KMOX-Part of multi-station Infinity broadcasting--headquartered in New York.

If there is one thing that excites me about this move by the Cardinals, its that it could signal a renewed emphasis by those in the broadcasting business, and those who do business with them, on the importance of local people calling the shots. "De-corporatizing" radio and television would be a great thing. We would all be better off with a return to the days when you could actually deal face-to-face with the General Manager, Program Director, or General Sales Manager who didn't have to answer to out-of-town ownership. Those people, by definition, are systematic and bottom line oriented. They have a cookie cutter that doesn't work for all markets, even though they think it does. They make decisions that may be right for New York, or Dallas, or San Francisco, but may not be appropriate for St. Louis which has different political, social, and economic forces. They are the slumlords of the broadcasting business.

These corporate broadcasting management types have usually acquired their positions by making the appropriate calls on matters within their companies, not within our local stations. And usually if a matter, such as Cardinals baseball rights, doesn't make sense on paper to that person in the big corporate office...and he/she isn't willing to try to sell it to a board of directors... then it isn't worth the gamble of their job to fight for it. It doesn't matter what the local market manager may think. Or... as in KMOX's case...what tradition may scream out for.

KMOX, to be sure, is and probably will on the strength of it's signal alone, continue to be a dominant station in St. Louis. But, because there is no longer a Robert Hyland to manage the station in an independent fashion, it will be just another station in the Infinity corporate structure. It will be subject to all of the same "corporate report" forces as any other station in it's portfolio. Sad, but true. This "foreign management" does a disservice to the people of St. Louis. Not intentionally, but unknowingly, automatically and necessarily. The bottom line will continue to be the bottom line.

"The Mox" doesn't have a St. Louis see-all and do-all dynamo like Bob Hyland running things any more. KTRS has Tim Dorsey, who isn't Bob Hyland either, but understands "Hylandism", has a local office and grew up in St. Louis. The Cardinals were smart to run with the local guys.